I returned home from vacation to find that apparently both Brian and the readership of this blog also decided to take a few days off. The news, however, did not. Along with a slew of e-mails that I’m slowly slogging my way through, there are also a number of reports to read on the country.
Here is a quick overview of what I’m reading today as I work on an incredibly over-due report. First, the old man of Yemeni politics has a two paragraph op-ed in the New York Times.
Kevin Peraino of Newsweek has a long and detailed story about al-Hitar’s failed rehabilitation program. There is not anything new here for people who have been following this story since 2002 (although the quote from an unnamed official on the Guantanamo detainees can’t help the process). The article is also a bit misleading if read carefully: al-Hitar’s program didn’t start until September 2002, nearly two years after al-Bahri was arrested and held without charge. (The article also neglects to mention that al-Bahri and Hamdan are actually related one of the (many) ironies of the whole thing.)
One major problem I have with the article is that it seems to conflate al-Qaeda with all Islamists in Yemen – this is less than clear thinking and it can have unforeseen and dangerous consequences.
One interesting line, mid-way through the article, reads in reference to the Saudi program: “When a militant is released, Saudi officials elicit promises from the inmate’s family to keep him in line. If he returns to violence, the whole family can be punished.”
This seems to be exactly what happened with al-‘Awfi and why al-Shihri was so determined to bring his wife and kids to Yemen. This raises the point that Jack Goldsmith articulated in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post: raising legal standards for detainees many times forces the terrorist incapacitation problem out of sight, where it will run up against fewer problems and, of course, operate with less outside observation.
Ginny Hill has a piece in the Arab Reform Bulletin on the economic underpinnings to the problems in the south, which I have long been arguing. (One note: al-Fadhli wasn’t so much a paid adviser as he was a commissioned officer receiving a salary as his 2001 interview with Khaled al-Hammadi of al-Quds al-Arabi makes clear.)
Christian Chase of the AFP also has an article out on the southern crisis and he quotes one (unnamed, of course) western official as comparing Salih to the central character in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “The Autumn of the Patriarch.” I’m quite pleased with the literary reference in an article on Yemen, but I don’t think the comparison quite works. Most Yemenis, I think, would stay closer to home referring to Salih as “Dahabashi.” But I wonder if there are any better comparisons in literature for western followers of Yemen. Any thoughts?
Finally, Munir Mawari brushes off AQAP’s criticisms and rebounds with a piece in Jamestown about the security threats facing Yemen. I obviously disagree with him on his take on al-Qaeda and the south.